Friday, February 27, 2015


Welcome to PICTURE PROMPTS! This is my way of 'paying it forward' for all the beautiful illustrations found in picture books all around the world. For the next year you will see me visit with guest illustrators, spotlighting their beautiful artwork and sharing their answers to a few questions I thought my readers might want to know about these illustrators. On the Friday when an illustrator hasn't stopped by for a visit and a hot cup of green tea, I will put up a random PICTURE PROMPT that has inspired me to write a little flash fiction to share with you!

If you are an illustrator, established or just starting out, and would like to participate in my PICTURE PROMPT series, just shoot me an email over to donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you the information on how to join the fun!

Please welcome talented illustrator, Chris Beatrice and check out his answers to my interview questions...

Why did you decide to become an illustrator?

As long as I can remember whenever I would read stories I would see them in my head, and I’d want to make those pictures!  After running game development studios for several years what made me want to do illustration professionally was probably a bit of a backlash against managing large groups and large sums of money… it’s nice to be able to do all the work myself and if I get behind I can just work a little harder and catch up.

Where do you get your inspiration?

This really comes from the given subject (the story or project I am working on) – and I am interested in a lot of different things. I really like history, and quasi-science (or pseudo-science), so historical settings tend to click well with me. I also like children’s stuff, because it doesn’t take itself as seriously as, say, fantasy. With kids’ stuff it’s okay to be silly. We know it’s silly, and that’s why we like it. A lot of classic fantasy stuff is really silly as well, when you think about it, but I think people can take it too seriously sometimes. When I’m just doing my own pictures (which doesn’t happen very much anymore), I often draw inspiration from classic fairy tales.

Do you have a favorite illustration of yours? Why is it your favorite?

That’s a tough one!  I guess it’d be The Girl in the Iron Shoes. That picture will always have a special place in my heart. I guess that’s true of a few pictures I did around that time, right when I was learning how to paint digitally but not really professional yet (so doing my own pictures mostly).

If you could invite five other illustrators (alive or deceased) to dinner, who would you invite and why?

Howard Pyle because he is kind of the grandfather of American illustration, and was a really good teacher.  Frank Frazetta because his particular gift for composition and abstraction is something I would really like to get some insights on.  Leyendecker and maybe Rockwell because I think I could gain a lot from understanding their thinking processes and working methods better, and probably Greg Hildebrandt because his work has influenced me a lot.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been heavily involved in the Maurice’s Valises series for a couple of years now, so I’m working on the eighth book in that set, plus some cards for American Greeting and a couple of book covers. I am also trying to get started on my own story project, but not finding the time.

Do you work in different mediums? If so, which style is the most challenging?

These days it’s pretty much just pencil for thumbnails and sketches, then Photoshop for finished work.  I do work in other physical media (oil, charcoal, pastels) as well as digital media (3d studio), but not so much for professional work lately.  I don’t particularly find any medium more challenging – they all have their own challenges that you need to deal with. For example, with physical media obviously one big challenge is there is a consequence for every mark you make (or remove), which means you might need to plan more, and you have to think before trying something that might not work. But the flip side of that is I find myself much more aware and sensitive, in the moment, with physical media, because it’s more of a “performance.”  With digital it’s the opposite, but the challenge there is trying too many things, not committing, and losing the focus or point of the piece. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying to become an illustrator? 

Ok, I have a lot to say on that subject so here goes:).

a) Make sure you really love it because you won’t do good work if you don’t.

b) Try to find the right balance of improving your skills, which can mean learning from others have done or are doing, but without sacrificing your own personal voice.   

c) Try to identify some kind of artwork you like to do and can do well that also has a place in the market (so you can get paid for it and keep doing it). 

d) Don’t undervalue your work, don’t work for free just to get exposure – put a price on your work and have confidence that it is worth it or will be some day.

e) Don’t worry too much about trying to develop a signature “style” – as long as you are careful not to waste too much time trying to be all things to all people, your style will emerge on its own (and this is the only way it can emerge)

f) As you progress, don’t get too comfortable just doing the same thing because it comes easily - at some point that will likely look dated and will not be in demand.  It’s much better to keep growing than to try to reinvent yourself after being in a rut for a really long time.

g) Illustration is a job, a profession, and like all jobs a big part of your success has to do with basic professionalism and work habits, not just how much of a superstar artist you are. So don’t just focus on developing the quality of your art - also think about how to deal with clients, advertise, manage your schedule, track your time, network, and so on.  You can still be a successful illustrator even if you are not the world’s greatest picture maker, or if what you do isn’t in the highest demand.  There are lots of opportunities for illustrators and the best fit for you may be something you haven’t thought of or encountered yet. 

h) I think some formal education is also a good idea, as long as you are getting the right education. Again, illustration is a profession, and learning the craft is not just about finding and making your own art. I didn’t go to art school for illustration and I think I really feel like I missed a lot, which I have been and still am figuring out on my own. I did go to a vocational high school, though, where I was taught what it means to actually work as a commercial artist, to think of myself and conduct myself as a professional artist, and that is really huge. 

Do you have another job in addition to being an illustrator?

No, though I still handle anything that comes up with my game studio (Tilted Mill Entertainment We are still selling games and have games out there that need to be supported, but I am a full time illustrator and have been so for six years now.  I should reiterate that my experience running companies and teams has proven really valuable for managing myself, my company of one.

Author Bio


Chris' work has graced the covers of classic books such as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Daniel DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, in addition to games, packaging, magazines, posters, private commissions and several other books.

His clients include Simon and Schuster, MacMillan, Scholastic, Disney/Hyperion, Penguin, Nelson, Pearson, Weekly Reader, Bloomsbury Childrens Books, Walker Books for Young Readers, Gamewright Games, Lighthouse Creative, Kingfisher, VIA Group, Jerry Bruckheimer Games, Noteworthy Books, Smithsonian Magazine, Berkley and Fernleigh.

Chris' work has been featured several times in 
SpectrumExpos√©ExotiquePainter and Fantasy Art Now 2, receiving two awards for Excellence in Fantasy and another for Excellence in Humor.

His work has also appeared on display in the 
Lyceum Theater Gallery in San Diego, California, The Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, Massachusetts, and The Gallery at Mount Ida College in Newton, MA.

Maurice’s Valises, illustrated by Chris won the 2014 USA Best Book Award for Best Children’s Picture Book (fiction), as well as the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Best Picture Book Series, while Swamp Things, also illustrated by Chris won the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for best Children’s Picture Book (ebooks).

Chris received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts. He now lives in Natick, Massachusetts with his wife and daughter.

Twitter handle: @_ChrisBeatrice

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